Tag Archives: ed tech

November 15, 2010, 9:17 pm

Technology FAIL day

This morning as I was driving in to work, I got to thinking: Could I teach my courses without all the technology I use? As in, just me, my students, and a chalk/whiteboard with chalk/markers? As I pulled in to the college, I thought: Sure I could. It just wouldn’t be as good or fun without the tech.

Little did I know, today would be centered around living that theory out:

  • I planned a Keynote presentation with clicker questions to teach the section on antiderivatives in Calculus. As soon as I tried to get the clickers going, I realized the little USB receiver wasn’t working. Turns out, updating Mac OS X to v10.6.5 breaks the software that runs the receiver. Clicker questions for this morning: Out the window. Hopefully I’ll find a useable laptop for tomorrow, when I’m using even more clicker questions.
  • Also in calculus, the laptop inexplicably went into presenter mode when I tried to…

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June 22, 2010, 7:42 pm

Partying like it's 1995

Yesterday at the ASEE conference, I attended mostly sessions run by the Liberal Education Division. Today I gravitated toward the Mathematics Division, which is sort of an MAA-within-the-ASEE. In fact, I recognized several faces from past MAA meetings. I would like to say that the outcome of attending these talks has been all positive. Unfortunately it’s not. I should probably explain.

The general impression from the talks I attended is that the discussions, arguments, and crises that the engineering math community is dealing with are exactly the ones that the college mathematics community in general, and the MAA in particular, were having — in 1995. Back then, mathematics instructors were asking questions such as:

  • Now that there’s relatively inexpensive technology that will do things like plot graphs and take derivatives, what are we supposed to teach now?
  • Won’t all that technology…

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April 11, 2010, 2:56 pm

MATLAB as a handout creator

One of the fringe benefits of having immersed myself in MATLAB for the last year (in preparation for teaching the Computer Tools for Problem Solving course) is that I’ve learned that MATLAB is an excellent all-purpose tool for preparing materials for my math classes. Here’s an example of something I just finished for a class tomorrow that I’m really pleased with.

I was needing to create a sequence of scatterplots of data for a handout in my Functions and Models class. The data are supposed to have varying degrees of linearity — some perfect/almost perfectly linear, some less so, some totally nonlinear — and having different directions, and the students are supposed to look at the data and rank the correlation coefficients in order of smallest to largest. (This is a standard activity in a statistics class as well.)

I could have just made up data with the right shape on Excel or…

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April 3, 2010, 6:07 am

Is the iPad really what students need?

Dave Caolo believes that students are one of the four groups of people who will make the iPad huge, because:

Students are on a fixed budget, and e-books are typically cheaper than their paper-based counterparts. Also, consider all of the money publishers lose when students buy used books from the campus bookstores. Additionally, Apple can distribute textbooks through iTunes U — an established and proven system that students, faculty and staff already know how to use.

Suddenly the iPad is a device that follows a student from his/her freshman year of high school all the way through graduate school. Why buy a laptop when every student has a device that can be a textbook, reference tool, Internet appliance and whatever else the imaginations of developers can dream up?

I do believe that the iPad’s success will be closely tied to its success in the EDU sector, but Caolo’s analysis misses…

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January 7, 2010, 7:11 am

Spreadsheets vs. online gradebooks

One of the things my students like the most about learning managment systems (LMS’s) such as Blackboard, Angel, or Moodle (I’ve used all of these at some point in my career) is the online gradebook feature. I enter their grades online, and students can check in on the web at any time and see their grades and get the info. These things are useful to be sure. But I’ve been wondering if they are the best implement for managing grades. I’ve been wondering if it wouldn’t be better to simply hand back graded work and then have students keep their grades on their own using a simple spreadsheet. Some reasons why I think this way:

  1. Spreadsheets have functionality. I can enter, view, and edit grades in an online gradebook; students can view them; but nobody can perform any meaningful analysis on the data that have been entered. The gradebook is just a two-dimensional list. But of course in a…

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August 8, 2008, 2:11 pm

What is a basic syllabus in educational technology?

So I’m plotting out my tactical plans for research and scholarship over the next year right now — my imagination being stoked by the completion of my Statement of Scholarship — and I’d like to go deeper into educational technology on a number of levels. I’d like not only to stay abreast of the rapidly-changing face of the technology being used in schools, but also the social implications of that technology, the legal issues behind it, and the technical nuts/bolts/bits of how this stuff works in the first place (including the computer network/programming side of things).

I’m just a user and a self-appointed pundit of ed tech, so I have no idea exactly where to start if I want really to go deeper on this subject. I do know that I’m going to swallow hard and read Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants by Prensky carefully (as opposed to skimmig it as I have done in the past) even though I…

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June 19, 2008, 7:39 am

Higher education and Web 2.0

Martin Weller of the UK’s Open University notes in this blog posting that there is an emerging cultural conflict between the world of higher education and the world of Web 2.0:

[T]he challenge is this – when learners have been accustomed to very facilitative, usable, personalisable and adaptive tools both for learning and socialising, why will they accept standardised, unintuitive, clumsy and out of date tools in formal education they are paying for? It won’t be a dramatic revolution (students accept lower physical accommodation standards when they leave home for university after all), but instead there will be a quiet migration. The monolithic LMSs will be deserted, digital tumbleweed blowing down their forums. Students will abandon these in favour of their tools, the back channel will grow and it will be constituted from content and communication technologies that don’t require a…

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March 7, 2008, 11:34 am

Another question to ask about new technologies

In this post, I put forth three questions that are good for creating a little objective distance between you and that shiny new technology you saw at the conference are MUST HAVE in your classroom. On the plane to San Antonio, I was thumbing through the SkyMall catalog and found another question to add in to that mix. It was inspired by this:


This is the “Learning Tower and Playset”. As you can see, it’s intended for kids to climb, so they can get up and see what’s happening on a table or countertop that’s normally too high for them. It also doubles as a playset; the platform that the child stands on can be removed and the kid can get inside it, and there are accessories that come with it so the child can use it as a puppet show theater or a make-believe drive-through window.

This product, like the technology we teachers use and think about using, does solve certain problems. My kids…

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March 6, 2008, 11:32 pm

On the ground at ICTCM

hotel-lobby-floor.jpgAs you can see in this photo, I made it safe and sound to San Antonio and the ICTCM. The image here is the ICTCM logo being projected on to the floor of the lobby. I guess that makes more of a splash than just putting the names of the groups who are meeting on a board somewhere.

Except for a 90-minute delay in Detroit for a mechanical problem, the trip here was uneventful.  That’s something of a big deal for me, since I am breaking a ten-year long boycott of Northwest Airlines on this trip. The last time I flew NWA was in 1997 when I was interviewing for jobs, and I had to make three trips on NWA. Every leg of each trip encountered a delay of at least two hours. But this time around it was pretty smooth sailing. The pilot even managed somehow to make up 30 minutes of lost time while in the air.

All I have done since getting in to the hotel is check in, get my conference packet, go…

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March 5, 2008, 9:45 pm

San Antonio or bust

Tomorrow is a travel day as I fly down to San Antonio for the ICTCM. I’m leaving from Indy around 11:00 AM and am supposed to (!) arrive around 4:30. All I  plan to do tomorrow is travel, check in to the hotel, and maybe grab a  program and plan my schedule for the conference. Given that my most recent airline experience was sheer hell, I’ve learned not to plan too much on a travel day since a “day” can end up being about 40 hours long.

I’m excited about the conference, especially at the prospect of meeting some of the folks I’ve been blogging with for years and at learning lots of cool new things. But I don’t look forward to missing my wife and kids. I don’t travel much, so it’s not easy for the girls (ages 2 and 4) when I’m gone for a few days. P, our 2-year old, is picking up speaking English very rapidly these days, and tonight she looked up at my wife and said — clear as day — …

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